Alvarez is a Dominican American, or American Dominican, depends how you look at it. I have read most of her novels, as all of them are somehow related to the Dominican Republic, a country I have spent a year (an important one) of my life. Especially the book about the Mirabal sisters (In the time of Butterflies) is a great story, based on the real tragic story of three sisters who die as heroes trying to get rid of dictator Trujillo.
This book is about the same era in time, about the same events, though from a different point of view. Anita, the main character, is an innocent 11- year old girl, who thinks the world is great. After her 12th birthday she does find out, the world isn’t. Her cousins flee to the USA with her uncle and aunt. Another uncle hasn’t been seen for weeks, apparently he is hiding somewhere and even her own father seems to be part of the resistance. The lovely country she lives in, is ruled by a merciless dictator who sleeps with little girls and ‘disappears’ his opponents.
The book is written for Young Adults, though imho it can be read by anyone who is interested in history. It demonstrates really well that children are often the forgotten victims in a war or conflict. They lose members of family, but possibly as bad, they lose their innocence, their childhood.
Alvarez has written another great book about a subject she does know a lot about. Her own father and other relatives were involved in the assassination of Trujillo. In the notes in the back of the book we find an interview with her, she explains the word ‘Ajusticiamento’ to non Spanish speakers. It means something like ‘bringing to justice’, a better word than murder, though effectively the result is similar.
Alvarez remains one of my favourite authors.
Title: Before we were free
Author: Julia Alvarez
# Pages: 183 (12541)